BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
ZIMBABWE’S fastest growing airline, fastjet, on Wednesday launched its first flight from Victoria Falls to Mbombela Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in South Africa, the first such connection linking the region’s biggest tourist destinations.
The budget airline’s move is expected to bolster arrivals into the tourism hubs previously only linked by charter flights.
In a statement, fastjet said it would be operating three weekly frequencies on the route on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.
“Providing a boost for tourism between the two countries, the new direct flight will be a seamless connection for travellers on the safari circuit, effectively linking the Lowveld lodges in and around the Kruger National Park, directly with Victoria Falls, another of southern Africa’s greatest tourist attractions,” the company said.
“We are delighted to be adding another crucial direct flight connection to Victoria Falls. We believe this route will facilitate accelerated travel between these two globally recognised tourist destinations of Zimbabwe and South Africa, thereby massively contributing to the restart of tourism in the region,” fastjet Zimbabwe spokesperson Nunurai Ndawana said
The company said it would operate a 50-seater Embraer ERJ145 aircraft on the route, which is suitable for regional network flights.
Its chief commercial officer Julian Edmunds said response had been “overwhelmingly positive”, since the announcement of the plan later last year.
“Our non-stop service from Victoria Falls to Mbombela Kruger Mpumalanga will benefit a variety of travellers especially those that want to maximise their holiday by exploring multiple southern African destinations in a single visit,” he said.
The airline has been buoyed by relaxations of COVID-19-induced restrictions in Sadc’s prime destinations, and the South African adventure comes just before a planned expansion into Maun, one of Botswana’s tourism hubs.
It hopes that the new swing into connecting Sadc’s leisure capitals would lift under-fire operators out of bankruptcy.
fastjet was one of a few airlines that received specific mention by Africa Albida Tourism (AAT) as the locomotives to drive a projected big bounce back in the sector this year.
AAT, which presides over a string of top-end hospitality gems including the world acclaimed Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, said relaxed COVID-19 restrictions came as global airlines trooped back following a frustrating two years characterised by hard lockdowns.
“The activity and forward planning for the region as witnessed by Africa’s Eden travel show in Victoria Falls, coupled with new airline access and support is immense, making now an incredible time to plan your next trip and travel. Tourism is the fourth pillar of our economy, a significant employer and foreign currency earner, so the easing of these regulations will have further positive impacts on communities, conservation and downstream benefits for the economy,” AAT said recently.
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